For Swati Pandey
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s economy advanced in the last quarter with massive consumer and business spending, pushing production levels back above last year, when pandemic curbs pushed the country into its first recession in three decades.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday showed that the economy grew 1.8% in the three months to March. Economists, according to a Reuters poll, had expected a 1.5% rise after an upwardly revised 3.2% increase in the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back strong quarterly growth helped boost annual output by 1.1% to A$525.7 billion ($408.05 billion), a significant change from last year’s recessionary low of A$468.3 billion.
Better-than-expected numbers pushed the Australian stock index to record highs, while supporting the local dollar near a one-week high.
Christian Colding, partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said Australia is in a rare group, with only five other countries, having a larger economy than it did before the pandemic.
According to a Deloitte study, the world’s rich countries are, on average, 2.7% poorer than they were before the pandemic: the UK economy has shrunk by almost 9%, the European Union by 5%, and the United States by 1%.
Australia in late March 2020 announced strict social distancing rules to curb the coronavirus pandemic, forcing businesses from retailers to cafes and restaurants to pull their curtains, leading to hundreds of thousands of people queuing up to receive social assistance.
But the A$2 trillion economy has since made a remarkable comeback by keeping virus numbers at bay, allowing businesses to reopen with confidence. Large and timely monetary and fiscal stimulus have also been beneficial.
(Reporting by Wayne Cole and Swati Pandey; Editing by Anna Nicolasi da Costa; Translated by Michael Sosin for the Gdansk Newsroom)